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Our little Dewhopper here has boney plates and spikes around his head, legs and back. Hard protective plates like these are visually interesting additions to many creature designs. The main challenge when sculpting them is getting them to integrate with the softer skin surface of the creature. So let's look at some reference images. One thing that helps us understand how to sculpt something like this is by paying attention to surface quality. The textures, shapes, and curves of these surfaces help us to understand what kind of material they're made of.
Surfaces with wrinkles imply that the material is pliable because the wrinkles form when the surface bends. Surfaces with sharp edges imply that the material is hard because soft surfaces don't tend to form edges. Surface quality is the way in which we can tell what kind of material something is made of just by its surface shape alone, and it's an indispensable skill for a sculptor to have. Being able to sculpt different material types without resorting to color, shininess, or fancy shaders is one of the best things you can do to make your creatures come alive.
Of course, all those other attributes will come later, but if the modeling and sculpting doesn't feature good surface quality, the shading and lighting will fall flat. So let's put this into practice. Back in ZBrush, you can see that we've got the overall mass of the boney parts already created. What we need to do now is to make it feel like a hard organic surface. There're several tools for this job; one is the Crease Brush. It will create hard corners and sharp edges. So let's see how this is going to work. Let me just zoom in here on the head, I am going to get the Crease Brush, typing B+C+J.So you can see when you use this brush, you get some nice sharp corners.
You can also hold down Alt while using it to dig in. This can create nice separations between different boney parts. You could also use it to separate these boney plates from the back here. So I am just going to create kind of a crease between them, then you could also use the Crease Brush to build up sharp corners around the boney plate. Another good tool is the Polish Brush.
So the shortcut for that is B+P+O. Using this brush puts flat spots onto the surface, kind of polishes down any rough areas which also creates a nice surface quality. Go ahead and adjust this to your liking. I might want to use a smaller brush here for some of these parts. We can use the Custom Clay Brush to build up the volume of little small horns that are clustered around big horns.
So let's look at this reference image. You can see that there's some of these big horns right here, but then there's little smaller ones kind of clustered around it. So let's see how we can get that effect in ZBrush. I am going to go to Custom Clay, B+C+O and I'll just use it to build up a shape and size and volume of little smaller horns around here. I am going to spend some more time on this area.
So there's lots of ways you can build up forms. I'm sculpting out these horns with the Custom Clay Brush. I just want to get kind of the shape built-in, and then I am going to go in with the Crease Brush and define the shape of these horns a little bit more clearly. If you hold down Alt while you stroke, you can use the Crease Brush to define kind of an inward crease. You know what, I didn't really like the way that was going. So I am just going to undo a little bit and use the Smooth Brush to knock these shapes back a little bit.
I just want to remove some of that volume and I want to try again with the Crease Brush to define these forms. That makes a much nicer separation between these horn shapes. Keep moving around to different parts of the sculpt and building in detail. These boney points can have patterns or interesting shapes worked into them. Sometimes I'll smooth out everything and try it in a different way if I don't like how it's working. Don't feel like you have to lock yourself in to the first shape you make.
Step back and evaluate what everything looks like and be open to making changes. You can also use the Move Brush to push things around. So let's say I don't like how these boney points are coming out right here. I am just going to smooth them out and try something else. Maybe I'll use the Move Brush, B+M+T, and try making that a different way. So you've got lots of options. It can take a while to really get that sense of hard boney surfaces. Keep at it and you'll find that the model takes on a much more solid tone with variations and surface quality.
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